Once you’ve picked out your fly rod (see Choosing the Right Fly Rod Part 1 and Part 2 for more information), choosing a fly reel is your next step. You’ll often hear that the fly reel is not a very important aspect of the fly fishing gear. I would have to disagree. I feel that a quality fly reel is essential for when you hook into that fish of a lifetime and all that stands between you and that monster of a fish is your gear.
When I first started fly fishing and was choosing a fly reel, I went for the cheapest fly reel I could find. That was mostly because of a lack of funds for my new fly fishing addiction, but partly because I thought what most people think…that it just wasn’t important since it only really held the fly line. While that is the primary function of a fly reel, there is still the aspect of fighting fish. There will be times when your drag on that fly reel makes the difference between landing that 30 incher and not. My first fly reel failed me and I’d hate for that to happen to you.
- The main key point to choosing a fly reel is to pick one that can hold the necessary amount of backing and fly line for the weight of rod that you are fishing with. If you purchased a 5 weight fly rod, make sure you are choosing a fly reel that will accommodate fly line weights from 4-6. Most fly reels will be available in different models to accommodate a range of fly line weights. Just make sure that you find yours within that range. By choosing the correct size of fly reel, you will make sure that it holds an adequate amount of backing for that time when the fish you hook makes the run of his life.
- Another key point in choosing a fly reel is the drag system on the fly reel. This is typically what distinguishes the $300-$400 dollar fly reel from the $50 dollar fly reel. This is also where it becomes important to determine what type of fly fishing you are doing and the species of fish. An inexpensive drag system will not hold up to hard running fish such as saltwater bonefish. However, for your typical trout species an inexpensive drag system will be sufficient.
- Again, choosing the correct size fly reel will also make sure that it is weighted appropriately to balance out your fly rod to help prevent extra fatigue when casting for extended periods of time.
Recommendations for Choosing a Fly Reel
My recommendation for choosing a fly reel is to find one that you like, is the correct size, and doesn’t break the bank. That may sound like a vague answer, but it holds true. If you have $200-$400 to spend on your first fly reel and it doesn’t get you in trouble, you will come away with a fantastic piece of fly fishing equipment. Some options in that range include the Ross Evolution LT Fly Reels or the Lamson Lightspeed Hard Alox Reels. If you have $50-$150 to spend, you can still come away with a phenomenal fly reel to get you started with the fly fishing basics and on your way to learning how to fly fish. Some great options in that range include the Waterworks Lamson Konic Fly Reels, the Ross Flystart Fly Reels, or the Ross Flyrise Fly Fishing Reels. I highly recommend the Ross and Lamson (Waterworks) fly reels. They are high quality even in their entry-level fly reels and will provide you with years of use.
Choosing a fly reel can seem daunting at first because of the sheer number of options. Don’t let this get you down and just head to your local fly shop to check them out in person. When doing so, follow the key points above and you should be good to go in choosing a fly reel.
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